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Safety And Audits In Business Aviation

Having established that Safety should be the first concern of those using business aviation- Gil Wolin explores how installing and maintaining an effective safety culture requires the full commitment and support of the Boardroom.

When the bathtub leaks- we call a plumber. When a short in the wall outlet creates a fire hazard- we call the electrician. It’s curious how quickly we call – and pay – these experts to resolve such home safety issues- yet so often are willing to take the “free” advice- perhaps offered during a round of golf- regarding corporate aviation where the safety implications can be far more dramatic.

It is not enough just to comply with regulations designed to assure safety. You must instill a Safety Culture in your flight department’s core- in its DNA- to ensure that your executives- partners- and guests travel aboard an aircraft operated to the highest possible safety standards.

In fact- professionally-flown and maintained business aircraft have achieved safety records comparable to leading commercial airlines. They have done so by relying on experts to establish operating systems- policies- and procedures based on cumulative industry knowledge and experience – and then retaining those experts to provide regular- independent verification of adherence to the most current aviation safety standards.

Your ability to sustain an equivalent safety record may well depend on your willingness to work with those expert aviation consultants (rather than your golf partner) to establish the highest safety standards possible in your operation- and then monitor them going forward.

Safety is not just a personal matter – it is a regulatory one as well. Compliance with applicable governments’ aviation regulations is only the start-point.

After all- even though drivers carry a current and valid government issued driver’s license- it does not ensure our highways and byways are filled with safe drivers.

That is why many nations now require that an aircraft operator have a recognized Safety Management System (SMS) in place in order to enter their airspace.

Consequently- several international aviation associations have created audit standards against which both individual corporate flight operations and charter operators can be measured. These standards define an SMS designed to promote and ensure best safety practices beyond government regulations.

These organizations include IATA (International Air Transport Association)- IBAC (International Business Aviation Council)- IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) and ACSF (Air Charter Safety Foundation).

An audit conducted to any of the above organizations’ criteria is a snapshot of your operational safety and compliance at that moment. But like the aircraft themselves- aviation safety is not static – it is a moving target. Our ever-improving record is the result of continual enhancements in how we manage flight operations.

Safety systems- processes and procedures evolve with both technical and human engineering improvements – which is why all of the organizations noted above place a two-year sunset on their authorized audits.

Recognized aviation auditors will measure your operation against those industry best practices- developed over millions of turbine flight hours of operation. Once established- these experts can periodically determine your flight operation’s compliance with regulations as well as its performance against those best practices.

This is not simply a “paper chase”: it ensures optimal flight operational safety and security as well as efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

SELECTING YOUR AUDITOR
Due to the fact your relationship with your aviation auditor will be a biennial one- selecting the right auditor is critical- beginning with their credentials and client list.

There is a wide range of aviation consultants authorized to conduct audits under the various international criteria - and a wide range of prices too. But just as you would not select a plastic surgeon based on price alone (Rhinoplasty at a discount would be risky at best)- neither should you select an auditor only on that basis.

In this case- size does matter – there are few individuals who have both the operations and maintenance experience and expertise to evaluate these critical functions effectively. The audit group selected should have available experts in all facets of business turbine operations and maintenance.

Installing and maintaining an effective safety culture requires the full commitment and support of the Boardroom. It also requires an open and honest relationship with your chosen audit group.

The audit should never be a “witch hunt-” but rather an honest effort to uncover- and resolve potential problems before they propagate. It should also be a way to recognize operational excellence when appropriate.

Properly installed and maintained- a regular audit program not only will ensure safety; it will elevate management confidence in your flight operation; create greater esprit de corps among your flight operations personnel; and create an effective transportation department dedicated to assisting your company achieve its goals and objectives.

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GLOSSARY OF ‘FLIGHT DEPARTMENT TALK’

Aviators communicate in ways that are different from Board Members and senior executives. Without knowledge of aviation initials- acronyms and specialized definitions used by flight department professionals- Directors may find interpretation of meaningful information challenging.

Understanding aviation jargon is important to exercising governance over the personnel who transport your company’s most important assets — company employees. Over the course of the next several months- we will present a brief glossary of initials frequently used by aviators.

When reading a communiqué from the Director of Flight Operations or the senior officer directly involved with the management of the company aircraft- you may encounter some of the following:

AIM: Airman’s Information Manual - a publication of the FAA designed to instruct pilots about operations in the USA national airspace.

APS: Accident Prevention Specialists - a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration who determines if remedial training of flight department personnel can be preformed as an enforcement action for an aviation violation.

AQP: Advanced Qualification Program - a program approved by the FAA as an alternative means of ensuring the competency of air crew members and other personnel subject to the requirements of a commercial operator.

ARO: Airport Reservations Office - an operational unit of the ATC system that is responsible for administration of reservations for Instrument Flight Plans.

ARTCC: Air Route Traffic Control Center - a facility established to provide control of air traffic and related ATC services. (see below).

ASOS: Automated Surface Observation System - a system of the National Weather Service similar to an AWOS (see below). ASR: Airport Surveillance Radar. ATC: Air Traffic Control.

AWOS: Automated Weather Observing System - a weather reporting system consisting of various sensors and computers designed to broadcast local- minute-byminute weather data without human intervention.


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